Posts Tagged ‘spaghetti’

Southern-Italian-inspired baked whole fish, and pasta with garlic and hot pepper

For dinner last night we made two dishes inspired by our travels in southern Italy, both very easy and delicious. One was a whole black sea bass, which we seasoned and baked. The other was spaghetti with a simple and flavorful topping.

We went to our local fishmonger on Saturday morning, and he had a fresh 2-pound back bass, which he gutted for us but otherwise left whole. To cook the fish that evening, I preheated the oven to 425, and lined a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. I arranged a few lemon slices on the parchment paper, rubbed 3 to 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on both sides of the fish, sprinkled salt on both sides too, and then lay the fish down on the lemon slices. I put a half-dozen more lemon slices in to the fish cavity, along with 6 to 8 sprigs of fresh thyme. Last, I rolled some cherry tomatoes around in a bowl with another tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkled with salt, put the tomatoes onto the same baking sheet, and put it all in the oven for 30 minutes.

A fresh black bass

A fresh black bass

The fish stuffed and ready for the oven

The fish stuffed and ready for the oven

Meanwhile, I put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the spaghetti, and set out other ingredients I had around: a dried cayenne pepper from my garden of two years ago, a tablespoon of capers in brine, and about 1/3 cup Calabrian caper shoots in olive oil we had recently been given a jar of. I took a hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano out of the fridge to come to room temp, and finely grated 2 cups worth using a zester.

I used the seeds from only one of these peppers.

I used the seeds from only one of these peppers.

Caper shoots in olive oil

Caper shoots in olive oil

I put a large skillet on low heat, and added about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. I sliced six cloves of garlic into thin slices, being careful to pull out and discard the green sprout from each clove – the garlic is a bit old and tired now, almost time for a new season. I added the garlic to the oil, and let it gently cook for 15 minutes, being careful that the heat was low enough that the garlic did not get very brown. Then I removed the garlic with a slotted spoon, and put in the hot pepper flakes from 1 cayenne pepper, the capers and the caper shoots.

The garlic adding flavor to olive oil at a low temperature.

The garlic adding flavor to olive oil at a low temperature.

The red pepper flakes, capers, and caper shoots added after the garlic was removed.

The red pepper flakes, capers, and caper shoots added after the garlic was removed.

Meanwhile, the salted pasta water had boiled, so I put in about 3/4 lb of spaghetti, and cooked until al dente. I drained the pasta well, and then poured it in to the large skillet with the olive oil and other ingredients, and stirred well. I tossed in about 1/2 cup of minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, and stirred in the cheese. And, the fish was just out of the oven! We gently pulled the fish off the bones on each side, and served with the cherry tomatoes and pasta, with sea salt, olive oil, and fresh lemon wedges on the table for additional seasoning.

The fish just out of the oven.

The fish just out of the oven.

Dinner!

Dinner!

It all paired very well with a chilled Viognier. Yum!

Spaghetti al Limone and Crispy Kale

I was in the mood for some good Italian winter comfort food that still was on the light side, and settled on the northern Italian specialty called Spaghetti al Limone (spaghetti in a lemon-cream sauce). It was super-easy, with a rich, smooth lemony flavor. And for a side dish I made crispy kale.

To make the crispy kale, I used “curly” kale, washed and dried it, and tore it up into bite-sized pieces. I tossed it in a big bowl with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a couple teaspoons of sea salt, until it was very well coated with the oil. (You can use all kinds of different spices, this time I was going for simple.) Then I spread it in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and baked it in a preheated oven at 350 degrees, watching it very carefully – I’ve found it generally only needs about 10 minutes. You want it to get crisp, not soggy, but you don’t want it to turn brown. When it’s perfect, it’s amazingly light and crispy and very fun to eat. I made this while the pasta water was heating up and while the noodles were cooking.

Crispy kale!

Ingredients for the Spaghetti al Limone.

To make the Spaghelli al Limone (recipe courtesy of a cooking magazine plus a few little variations of my own):
1 pound of spaghetti (I use gluten-free, generally Tinkyada brand)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
black pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves – I didn’t have any, but I did have some “basil in a tube”, it worked fine but I used less of it, maybe 1-1/2 tablespoons

Boil the pasta water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and pasta, cook til al dente. Keep a couple cups of the pasta water in a bowl or large measuring cup and drain the rest, and leave the pasta in a colander. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same pot over medium heat, add the shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt, cook a couple minutes, until softened. Whisk 1-1/2 cups of reserved pasta water and the 1/4 cup cream into the pot, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.

Whisking the pasta water with the cream.

Adding the spaghetti into the sauce.

Remove the pot from the heat, put the pasta in the pot, and stir until it’s well coated. Stir in the 3 tablespoons olive oil that are left, the lemon zest, lemon juice, parmesan, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover and let the pasta stand for 2 minutes, but stir it every 30 seconds or so so it doesn’t clump, and add 1/4 cup more pasta water if needed if it seems too thick. Then stir in the basil, season with more salt and pepper, and serve with more cheese.

Mm, pasta...

It was an excellent dinner, paired with a crisp Italian white wine.